I tend to enjoy the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, a group blog authored by adults and teens on the spectrum and family members of people on the spectrum, with a decidedly pro-science, pro-research bent. A recent post about presuppositions got me thinking about the value of diagnosis (self or professional) and being open about that diagnosis.

Okay, so presuppositions are the assumptions all people make about the way other humans work. Everyone has them, but sometimes they don’t match up very well–this is where conflict happens. They involve all axes of oppression (class, race, cultural background, gender, etc) and when we interact with someone who is not a close match of our own experiences, we tend to rely on stereotypes to form our presuppositions about how they will behave.

This is, obviously, a big sticking point for people on the spectrum. We don’t naturally behave or respond the way most people do, at least not innately. Things like delays, stimming, lack of eye contact, avoidance of people, they’re all traditionally seen by researchers through their own presuppositions; that is to say, researchers make assumptions about what autistic behaviour means based on what it would mean IF A NT PERSON behaved that way, rather than consulting autistics and getting a general consensus. See the problem?

This is all related to being aware of being autistic (via self or professional diagnosis) and being open about it because I think that is the only way we are going to change the stereotypes associated with autism–the basis of people’s presuppositons about US. If I am distant or use stalling techniques while my brain catches up to what I just heard, it isn’t because I don’t like other people or because I didn’t deem the person speaking to me important enough to pay attention! It isn’t that I don’t care. It’s that my brain gets easily overwhelmed and I need to sort out how best to answer or behave. Being open about being autistic and (sometimes) able to discuss this idea with NT people means I can, hopefully, gradually shift their perceptions and assumptions about how autistic people react, think, and behave.

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